Q: I really struggle with my inadequacies as a mother. I try my best, but I never quite measure up to all the other moms who do everything right. I'm so afraid that my kids will be damaged in some way. Help!
Jim: I've got some good news for you: There's no such thing as a perfect family.
That may not sound very encouraging, but I promise you that it is. Effective parenting can be tough on a good day. It's nearly impossible if you think you have to do it perfectly.
And that's an easy trap to fall into. You might not even recognize all of the subtle ways you see imperfection in your home. Like the day you see the family across the street, and you think to yourself, "They sure look like they have it all together." Or another day when you think you're failing as a parent because the people you follow on social media all make parenting and marriage seem so easy. When everybody around you looks flawless, your own home life is much more likely to feel chaotic and fragmented.
The truth is, we're all flawed. No parent acts lovable all of the time. And every child misbehaves. The goal isn't for our families to be perfect -- it's for them to be as healthy and as happy as possible.
So when you make a mistake, just remember it's an opportunity to learn something. And when you're open to learning, you'll move one step closer every day to becoming the parent you hope to be.
So let me encourage you with this: On days when your family doesn't seem to be going the way you'd hoped, don't think "perfection" -- think "connection." Your children don't need you to be perfect. They just need you to be present.
Q: I married my soldier husband a year ago, and now he's scheduled to deploy overseas for at least six months. How can we maintain a healthy marriage while we're apart?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: First of all, thanks to both of you for your service. Military deployment can be tough on couples, but if you're proactive (and it sounds like you are), you can thrive through it.
Remember that husbands and wives tend to handle stress differently. While there are exceptions, men often detach emotionally as a coping mechanism. Women are usually the opposite; their need for emotional connection increases as the time for separation draws closer. These differences can lead to conflict -- or be a source of intimacy if couples will openly communicate about what they're feeling. So talk with each other.
Also, it's easy to worry about the months ahead and lose touch with your spouse right here and now. The more good memories you create together before you're separated, the less stressful your time apart will be.
During the deployment, it's critical to surround yourself with a supportive community -- through church, moms' groups, other military families, etc. Establish connection with others for mutual encouragement and practical help.
Naturally, communicate with your spouse as often as you can. Technology makes it easier than ever to stay in touch, so take advantage of it. But be careful. Never end a conversation in anger. And don't try to resolve big problems that can wait. A frustrating situation will be twice as hard to manage when one of you is away. So try to stay positive. Keep your spouse updated on life at home, send care packages and keep family photos coming.
Finally, take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Your spouse will be relieved to know you're doing well. We have plenty of tips and resources for military families at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT SECURED. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.